Re: When to introduce breakfalls
Don J. Modesto-"For the last couple of months, I have been following instinct, instead of conventional wisdom, and teaching my students breakfalls almost as soon as they come into the dojo. I'm wondering when others introduce."
In the last school I was student in, the sensei didn't like breakfalls nor did he teach them. When my son and I would be practicing them before class, he would always say something critical in class about it and he called breakfalls "showing off". He really respected though the concept of nage throwing uke "for real". In other words, when you didn't take ukemi but were really lifted and thrown without helping it and without the knowledge of what happened to you. The problem with that is that he rarely threw anyone that way because even he had sense enough to know that if you had no experience falling like that, you could be seriously injured so basically, breakfalls weren't taught or learned by the students unless someone who already knew them who came in from another school did them. I taught them once in a while to students who used to ask me how to do them. In most cases, those were first kyu students asking who didn't know how to do them. In that school, we actually had people go from 5th kyu to yudansha who never took a breakfall in their life and one woman who left the school is an instructor now who I never saw take an advanced fall in that school.
When I became an instructor, I took a different approach. I had read in an article written by a scientist that said it takes 10,000 times to become good at a movement and 20,000 times to become an expert at a movement and the instructor used high impact mats to teach breakfalls to his students. He used the mats so that while they were learning to roll and breakfall, they wouldn't be injured and quit.
Since the beginning of our program, I have taught all beginning students to roll on a high impact mat and within the month, to breakfall on that same mat. Then, I graduate them to rolling on the regular mat and then to breakfalling on the regular mat. I have students ranging from age 6 to 58. All beginners and they all breakfall on the regular mat except for the 58 year old. We start every class with breakfalls into the high impact mat. I let them practice the kotegaeshi breakfall but I don't do any others like iriminage or shihonage and I won't until they have the body control to do those. Since koshinage depends on the nage and not the uke as much, I throw them all koshinage (just the adults) into the high impact mat as well. I then let them practice their falls on the mat of their choice. They are all doing fine and have no fear of it. Also, I don't let them throw each other that way for now so there won't be an injury. For their future reference, I explain the need for nage to remain upright and even to pull up slightly thus keeping uke's head from going into the mat. I have been very pleased at their progress. None of them have tested for 5th kyu yet.